Monday, 17 December 2018 00:00

Treating Toenail Fungus

Fungal infection of the toenail, or onychomycosis, typically appears as a gradual change in a toenail’s texture and color that involves brittleness and darkening.  The fungal infection itself occurs beneath the surface of the nail.  Aside from discoloration, other symptoms include the collection of debris beneath the nail plate, white marks on the nail plate, and a foul odor emanating from the nail.  If ignored, the infection can spread into other nails and the skin; in severe cases, it can hinder one’s ability to work or walk. 

The toenails are particularly vulnerable to contracting infection in moist environments where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as around swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms.  Fungal infection may also be more likely to occur in nail beds that have been injured, and sufferers of chronic diseases such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immunodeficiency conditions are particularly prone to developing fungal nails. 

Fungal nails can be primarily prevented by practicing proper hygiene and regularly examining the feet and toes.  Carefully washing the feet with soap and water and thoroughly drying the feet afterwards are essential.  Other tips include wearing shower shoes in public areas, changing shoes and socks daily, keeping toenails clipped at a short length, wearing breathable shoes that fit properly, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and disinfecting home pedicure tools and instruments used to cut nails.

Fungal nail treatment may vary between patients and the severity of the condition.  Your podiatrist may suggest a daily routine of cleansing that spans over a period of time to ease mild infections.  Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal agents may also be prescribed, including topical and/or oral medications.  Debridement, or the removal of diseased nail matter and debris, may also be performed.  In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be needed.  In some instances, the temporary removal of the fungal nail allows for the direct application of a topical antifungal to the nail bed.  In other cases, a chronically painful fungal nail that has not responded to other treatments may be permanently removed; this allows the infection to be cured and avoids the growth of a deformed nail.  

Monday, 10 December 2018 00:00

Flatfoot

Flatfoot is a foot disorder that is not as straightforward as many people believe.  Various types of flatfoot exist, each with their own varying deformities and symptoms.  The partial or total collapse of the arch, however, is a characteristic common to all types of flatfoot.  Other signs of flatfoot include:

  • “Toe drift,” or the pointing outward of the toes and the front part of the foot
  • The tilting outward of the heel and the tilting inward of the ankle
  • The lifting of the heel off the ground earlier when walking due to a tight Achilles tendon
  • Hammertoes
  • Bunions

One of the most common types of flatfoot is flexible flatfoot.  This variation usually starts in childhood and progresses as one ages into adulthood.  Flexible flatfoot presents as a foot that is flat when standing, or weight-bearing.  When not standing, the arch returns.  Symptoms of flexible flatfoot include:

  • Pain located in the heel, arch, ankle, or along the outside of the foot
  • Overpronation, or an ankle that rolls in
  • Shin splint, or pain along the shin bone
  • General foot aches or fatigue
  • Pain located in the lower back, hip, or knee

Your podiatrist will most likely diagnose flatfoot by examining your feet when you stand and sit.  X-rays may be taken to define the severity and help determine the treatment option best for your condition.  Nonsurgical treatments can include activity modification, weight loss, orthotics, immobilization, medications, physical therapy, shoe modifications, and ankle foot orthoses (AFO) devices.  If nonsurgical methods prove ineffective, surgery may be considered.  Multiple surgical procedures can correct flatfoot; and depending on your specific condition, one may be selected alone or combined with other techniques to ensure optimal results.

Monday, 03 December 2018 00:00

Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can make life very frustrating and embarrassing when displaying the bare feet. Aside from being unpleasing to the eye, they can also tear stockings and socks and wear out shoes at a faster rate. When severe, cracked heels may cause pain or infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for those who are athletic, those who may walk a lot, and those who have especially dry skin. Those who use medication that dry the skin, those who swim often, wearing certain types of shoes, and those who are diabetic may have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors whose skin produces less oil may also have trouble with cracked feet. There is no one way to develop cracked feet, and there is no cure.

Today, the market consists of numerous products that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these are over-the-counter. Others are prescribed by a doctor, especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors recommend wearing socks at night for those with rough skin. This helps further healing, and helps creams stay on longer and better absorb into the skin.

One way to alleviate dryness that causes cracked heels is by using moisturizers both day and night. Another way is to make sure the skin is clean and dry at all times. Using a pumice stone to buff away dead skin before putting on moisturizer can also help. Cracked heels will not respond to the cream unless the outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. After exfoliation, lotion or ointment will be absorbed by the skin more easily.

Foods that produce healing and balance can also help the skin from within. Everything that is put into the body can either help it or hurt it. Taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc can also be very beneficial.

Nevertheless, not all products are guaranteed to help treat cracked feet. Seeing a professional is best if other treatments options were unsuccessful. A podiatrist should be able to give the best advice to help with this problem.

Monday, 26 November 2018 00:00

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. The plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. When this band of connective tissue becomes inflamed, plantar fasciitis occurs. Fortunately, this condition is treatable.

There are several factors that may put you at a greater risk for developing plantar fasciitis. One of the biggest factors is age; plantar fasciitis is common in those between the ages of 40 to 60. People who have jobs that require them to be on their feet are also likely to develop plantar fasciitis. This includes factory workers, teachers, and others who spend a large portion of their day walking around on hard surfaces. Another risk factor is obesity because excess weight can result in extra stress being placed on the plantar fascia.

People with plantar fasciitis often experience a stabbing pain in the heel area. This pain is usually at its worst in the morning, but can also be triggered by periods of standing or sitting. Plantar fasciitis may make it hard to run and walk. It may also make the foot feel stiff and sensitive, which consequently makes walking barefoot difficult.

Treatment for plantar fasciitis depends on the severity of the specific case of the condition. Ice massage applications may be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy is often used to treat plantar fasciitis, and this may include stretching exercises. Another treatment option is anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen.

If you suspect that you have plantar fasciitis, meet with your podiatrist immediately. If left untreated, symptoms may lead to tearing and overstretching of the plantar fascia. The solution is early detection and treatment. Be sure to speak with your podiatrist if you are experiencing heel pain.

Monday, 19 November 2018 00:00

Geriatrics and Podiatry

Bone density loss, dry skin, poor circulation, and rough and brittle nails are some of the common problems that can occur as people age. The effect that these problems has on foot health should be of particular concern in comprehensive geriatric care.

Feet that are diseased or injured have a negative effect on overall health and safety. Painful feet limit a person’s willingness and ability to stay active. Poor foot health can also cause gait change, which can lead to falls and accidents. Even though recovery time from health problems naturally slows as we age, many foot problems can be avoided altogether with regular prophylactic care.

Feet should be thoroughly washed in warm water daily. Care must be taken to dry the feet well, making sure to dry between and under the toes. Any left-over moisture can cause problems like foot fungus. After cleaning feet carefully check for problems such as cracked skin, bruises, swelling, cuts, corns, or other irregularities.

Examine toenails for ingrown, jagged, or split nails. Long toenails should be cut straight across. Never cut toenails at an angle or down the side as this may lead to ingrown nails.

Cracked and dry feet should be treated once or twice a day with a non-greasy moisturizer. Rub the moisturizer into the skin and allow it to dry before putting on socks and shoes. Sweaty feet can be dusted with a small amount of talcum powder. Avoid putting talcum directly into shoes as this may make feet slip within the shoe and cause a serious fall.

Wear clean dry socks each day. Not only do clean socks feel better on the feet, but socks worn for longer periods may harbor disease and odor-causing bacteria. Socks should not be tight around the top as they can leave marks on the leg. Socks that are too small can bring about bruising caused by pressure against the toes.

Wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes. If possible, consult a professional footwear specialist when purchasing shoes. Do not walk around barefoot as this exposes the feet to possible injury and bacteria.

Good foot health allows a more active lifestyle, which improves blood flow. Good circulation aids in recovery from injury or illness. It is also important for maintaining overall health.

Serious health problems can manifest themselves as symptoms in the feet. The elderly should seek professional help from a podiatrist if experiencing foot problems like tingling, numbness, pain, infection, or a sore that does not heal. Taking care of these problems right away can prevent the development of severe cases.

The purpose of the body’s circulation system is to transport blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. A reduction of blood to a specific part of the body may cause one to experience symptoms of poor circulation. The most common causes of poor circulation in the feet are obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions such as peripheral artery disease (PAD). Common symptoms of poor circulation include tingling, numbness, throbbing, pain and muscle cramps.

Peripheral artery disease is a common cause of poor circulation in the legs. Symptoms of PAD are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. This pain tends to go away with rest and starts back up when you begin to walk.  It is a condition that causes the blood vessels and arteries to become narrow. Although PAD is more common in adults over the age of 50, it may also occur in younger people.  A similar condition called atherosclerosis causes arteries to stiffen up due to a buildup of plaque in the arteries and blood vessels.

Blood clots are also a common cause of poor circulation in the feet. Clots may obstruct blood vessels and if they occur in the legs, they may eventually lead to pain and discoloration. This occurrence is commonly known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and it may travel to the lungs. Varicose veins are another condition that may lead to poor circulation, and it is caused by incompetence of the valves in the veins. Women who are overweight are prone to developing this condition. Lastly, diabetes, which is correlated with poor blood sugar metabolism may lead to chronic poor circulation. Those with diabetes often suffer from cramping in the legs, calves, thighs and buttocks.

If you are looking for ways to avoid poor circulation there are some tips you can follow. One tip is to avoid sitting for too long. If you plan to sit down for a long period of time, you should try standing up occasionally, to improve your circulation. Another great way to avoid poor circulation is to exercise. Exercise is an excellent way to pump the heart and increase blood flow. Those who suffer from poor circulation should also avoid smoking, reduce their salt intake, and try to lose weight.

If you are experiencing symptoms from poor circulation in your feet, you should consult with your podiatrist to determine the best method for treatment for you. He or she may prescribe medication in addition to recommending specific lifestyle changes to improve your circulation.

Monday, 05 November 2018 00:00

Falls Prevention

Elderly Americans are very susceptible to falls as they get older. Everyone experiences decreases in flexibility, balance, strength, and the senses as they age. This correlates to some eye-opening statistics. 1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. An elderly American is being treated for a fall in an emergency room every 11 seconds, and every 19 minutes, an older person dies from falling. In light of these striking statistics, one can see the importance of taking steps to prevent falls.

Finding an exercise program for the elderly is an excellent way to reduce the likelihood of falls. Look for an exercise program that improves strength and balance. Elderly people who live a more sedentary lifestyle, with little physical activity, are at an increased risk of falling. Wearing well-fitted footwear that provides good foot support and cushion will help prevent falls from poorly fitted shoes. Talking to a podiatrist about your susceptibility to falls and about inspecting your prescriptions will help to avoid any medication that could make falls more likely. Due to a decline in the senses among the elderly, having your eyes and hearing checked is recommended.

Around half of all falls occur in the household. Removing tripping hazards in the home and making it more accommodating to older persons can significantly reduce falls. Some notable household changes include increasing lighting around the house, installing grab bars in the shower and bathroom, and making sure the floor is clear of clutter. Other smart options include installing a shower chair, using rubber-bottomed rugs, and placing railings on both sides of stairwells.  

Finally, discuss with a doctor and your family about your fear of falling. This will help to increase awareness among the population on the need for fall prevention. A lack of awareness on the matter, and a downplaying of importance are what increase the risks of falling. Following these tips can help to reduce the risk for yourself and your loved ones.

 

Monday, 29 October 2018 00:00

Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail is a nail that has curved downward and grown into the skin.  This typically occurs at either the nail borders or the sides of the nail.  As a result, pain, redness, swelling, and warmth may occur in the toe.  If a break in the skin forms due to the ingrown nail, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area; this is typically characterized by a foul odor and drainage.

Ingrown toenails have multiple reasons for developing.  In many instances, the condition is a result of genetics and is inherited.  The most common cause, however, is improper trimming; cutting the toenails too short forces the skin beside the nail to fold over.  An ingrown toenail can also develop due to trauma, such as stubbing the toe, having an object fall on the toe, or participating in activities that involve repeated kicking or running.  Wearing shoes that are too tight or too short can also cause ingrown toenails.

Treatment for an ingrown toenail varies between patients and the severity of the condition.  In most cases, it is best to see your podiatrist for thorough and proper treatment.  After examining your toe, your podiatrist may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear the infection if one is present.  Surgical removal of either a portion of the nail or the entire nail may also be considered.  In some cases, complete removal or destruction of the nail root may be required.  Most patients who undergo nail surgery experience minimal pain afterward and can return to normal activity the following day.

Ingrown toenails can be prevented with proper nail trimming and by avoiding improper-fitting shoes.  When cutting the toenails, be sure that you are cutting in a straight line and avoid cutting them too short.  Shoes should not be too short or tight in the toe box.

Monday, 22 October 2018 00:00

Obesity and the Feet

Obesity is a common problem in American society. Approximately one third of the U.S. population is obese. Obesity is defined as a body mass index greater than 30. Obesity has the power to affect different aspects of the body, and one of the most common problems it causes is foot pain. There have been many studies that found a connection between an increased BMI and foot problems. A simple activity such as walking up a flight of stairs can increase pressure on the ankle by four to six times.

Being overweight causes the body to compensate for the extra weight by changing the way it moves. Consequently, people who struggle with obesity commonly have arch problems in their feet. Obesity causes the arch to break by stretching the ligaments and tendons that hold the bones in the foot together. When the arch lowers, the foot may eventually fall flat. Collapsed foot arches fail to provide adequate shock absorption which eventually leads to foot pain. Other conditions that may be caused by flat feet are pronation, plantar fasciitis, weak ankles, and shin splints.

Foot problems that are caused by obesity may be treated by wearing proper footwear. Proper shoes will allow your feet to have better circulation around the arch and ankle. Additionally, those with obesity often discover that typical heel pain remedies are not effective for them.  They will find that their plantar fascia is easily injured, and it is often inflamed. The best way to treat this problem is to implement lifestyle changes. A few good ways to improve your diet are to reduce calories, fill up on fruits and veggies, and to limit sugars.

Custom foot orthotics can prevent foot problems if you’re carrying excess weight or are trying to lose weight. The purpose of orthotics is to provide shock absorption to decrease the amount of stress on the joints to prevent arthritis.

Monday, 15 October 2018 00:00

What to Know About a Broken Toe

Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break or fracture. Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.

Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications. However, it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any more additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it. Then, tape the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.

Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery, especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure the big toe endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if it is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. Prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.

The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma. They will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options. 

Monday, 08 October 2018 00:00

Achilles Tendon Injuries

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body; it is a tough band of fibrous tissue that stretches from the bones of the heel to the calf muscles. This tendon is what allows us to stand on our toes while running, walking, or jumping, it is common for this tendon to become injured. In severe cases, the Achilles tendon may become partially torn or completely ruptured. However, this tendon is susceptible to injury because of its limited blood supply and the high tensions it endures.

The people who are more likely to suffer from Achilles tendon injuries are athletes who partake in activities that require them to speed up, slow down, or pivot. Consequently, athletes who engage in running, gymnastics, dance, football, baseball, basketball, or tennis are more likely to suffer from Achilles tendon injuries. Additionally, there are other factors that may make you more prone to this injury. People who wear high heels, have flat feet, have tight leg muscles or tendons, or take medicines called glucocorticoids are more likely to have Achilles tendon injuries.

A common symptom of an Achilles tendon injury is pain above the heel that is felt when you stand on your toes. However, if the tendon is ruptured, the pain will be severe, and the area may become swollen and stiff. Other symptoms may be reduced strength in the lower ankle or leg area, and reduced range of motion in the ankle. When the Achilles tendon tears, there is usually a popping sound that occurs along with it. People who have acute tears or ruptures may find walking and standing to be difficult.

If you suspect you have injured your Achilles tendon, you should see your podiatrist to have a physical examination. Your podiatrist will likely conduct a series of tests to diagnose your injury including a “calf-squeeze” test. Calf squeeze tests are performed by first squeezing the calf muscle on the healthy leg. This will pull on the tendon and consequently cause the foot to move. Afterward, the same test will be performed on the injured leg. If the tendon is torn, the foot won’t move because the calf muscle won’t be connected to the foot.

Monday, 01 October 2018 00:00

Flat Feet

Flatfoot is a condition that occurs when the arches on the foot are flattened, which allows the soles of the feet to touch the floor. Flatfoot is a common condition and it is usually painless.

Throughout childhood, most people begin to develop arches in their feet, however, some do not. Those who do not develop arches are left with flatfoot. The pain associated with flat feet is usually at its worse when engaging in activity. Another symptom that may occur with those who have this condition is swelling along the inside of the ankle.

It is also possible to have flexible flatfoot. Flexible flatfoot occurs when the arch is visible while sitting or standing on the tiptoes, but it disappears when standing. People who have flexible flatfoot are often children and most outgrow it without any problems.

There are some risk factors that may make you more likely to develop flatfoot. Those who have diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of flatfoot development. Other factors include aging and obesity.

Diagnosis for flat feet is usually done by a series of tests by your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will typically try an x-ray, CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI on the feet. Treatment is usually not necessary for flat foot unless it causes pain. However, therapy is often used for those who experience pain in their flat feet. Some other suggested treatment options are arch supports, stretching exercises, and supportive shoes. 

Monday, 24 September 2018 00:00

All About Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are warts that are only found on the feet, hence the term “plantar”, which means “relating to the foot.” They are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, and occur when this virus gets into open wounds on the feet. The warts themselves are hard bumps on the foot. They are easily recognizable, mostly found on the heels or ball of the foot. Plantar warts are non-malignant, but they can cause some pain, discomfort, and are often unsightly. Removing them is a common step toward treating them.

Plantar warts can cause some pain while standing, sometimes felt as tenderness on the sole of your foot. Unless the wart has grown into the foot behind a callus, you will be able to see the fleshy wart. A podiatrist should only be consulted if there is an excessive amount of pain. Plantar warts are not cancerous or dangerous, but they can affect your walking and continually reappear. Anyone who suffers from diabetes or a compromised immune system disease should seek out care immediately.

Podiatrists are easily able to diagnose plantar warts. They usually scrape off a tiny bit of the rough skin to make tiny blood clots visible and examine the inside of warts. However, a biopsy can be done if the doctor is not able to diagnose them from simply looking at them. Although plantar warts usually do not require an excessive amount of treatment, there are ways to go about removing them. A common method is to freeze them off using liquid nitrogen, removing them using an electrical tool, or burning them off via laser treatment. For a less invasive treatment option, topical creams can be used through a doctor’s prescription. This treatment method takes more time, however. Keep the wart covered for protection in between daily treatments.

The best way to avoid developing plantar warts is to avoid walking barefoot in public places. Avoid this especially if you have open sores or cuts on your feet. It is also important to avoid direct contact with warts in general, as they are highly contagious.

Monday, 17 September 2018 00:00

Wound Care

Diabetics must be wary of all wounds, regardless of depth or size. Diabetes, a chronic disease in which the body cannot properly use glucose the way it normally would, causes various complications that make wounds difficult to heal. Nerve damage or neuropathy will cause diabetics to have trouble feeling the pain of a blister or cut until the condition has significantly worsened or become infected. A diabetic’s weakened immune system can make even the most minor of wounds easily susceptible to infection. Diabetics are also more prone to developing narrow, clogged arteries, and are therefore more likely to develop wounds.

Wounds should be taken care of immediately after discovery, as even the smallest of wounds can become infected if enough bacteria build up within the wound.  To remove dirt, wounds should be first rinsed under running water only. Soap, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine can irritate the injury and should be avoided. To prevent infection, apply antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a bandage. The bandage should be changed daily. The skin around the wound may be cleaned with soap.

To prevent further exacerbation, see a doctor—especially if you have diabetes. Minor skin conditions can become larger problems if not properly inspected. As the wound heals, make sure to avoid applying pressure to the affected area.

Monday, 10 September 2018 00:00

Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels may make you want to think twice about showing off your feet in warmer weather. However, cracked heels may be harmful to more than just the appearance of your feet. If deep fissures and cracks develop in your heels, they may make walking and standing painful for you. Additionally, these openings make way for germs to enter through your skin and cause infection.

There are several different causes of cracked heels. One of the most common reasons for this ailment is dry skin. This problem may make your keeps feel rough tight and itchy. Dry skin may be caused by cold air, extremely hot water, harsh soaps, and aging. Skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis may eventually lead to dry skin. In some cases, complications may arise from cracked heels. Some of these complications are a loss of feeling in the heel, cellulitis, or a diabetic foot ulcer.

There are ways you can try to prevent getting cracked heels. One of the best ways to do so is to avoid wearing flip flops and sandals because these shoes increase your risk of drying out your feet. You should also avoid wearing shoes with a tall skinny heel, because these shoes cause your heel to expand sideways. At night, you should slather on a thick moisturizing cream on your feet and then cover them in socks to keep your feet moisturized overnight. Drinking water to stay hydrated is also a good way to ensure that your skin doesn’t become dry.

If you suffer from a severe case of cracked feet, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist to see what treatment methods are best for you.

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